Basketball Hall of Famer Michael Jordan once said “Republicans buy shoes, too”. He was referring to the fact that he was a registered Democrat but wouldn’t support Michael Dukakis in the 1988 Presidential Election for fear it would hurt his endorsement deal with Nike as well as being the face of the NBA. Steve Kerr obviously didn’t listen to his former Chicago Bull teammate when the head coach of the World Champion Golden State Warriors criticized Donald Trump after the billionaire’s win in last November’s US Election. He doubled down on his comments after Trump was inaugurated and again after a ban was issued that prevented residents from known terrorist countries from entering the US.
San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is also critical of Trump. He even donned a t-shirt to show his support of the Women’s March on Washington two days after the inauguration. I’m not sure if either Kerr or Popovich voted for Trump’s Democrat opponent Hillary Clinton, but judging by their ongoing diatribe towards the US President, I’m guessing they, like the rest who didn’t vote for Trump, are not over the results of the election. Well, they better get over it. They should be more focused on the people who DID vote for Trump. You know, the ones who buy season tickets to their games or the team’s merchandise to wear with pride. The ones who, in the end, pay their salary. Are they going to say: “No thanks, I’ll go work elsewhere?” Mind you, Kerr, being in the liberal utopia of California, is in a much easier position than Popovich, who works in Republican heavy Texas.
The issue here is not about speaking your mind but rather is your actions becoming a detriment to the team? Coaches often preach to players about putting the team first ahead of themselves. Maybe Kerr and Popovich should set an example and do the same. What’s more, one would think Popovich would be above jumping on a bandwagon to appease a fringe political group like he did at the Women’s March on Washington. But it goes to show the hate for Trump is greater than one’s love for basketball.
On the other side, goaltender Tim Thomas should have went to the White House after the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011. His absence overshadowed what should have been a once-in-a-lifetime meeting with the President of the United States, Barack Obama. I, like Thomas, disagree with Obama’s policies but he put himself ahead of the team and that is wrong. No doubt in my mind the boycott hurt the Bruins’ chances of repeating as champs.
Making political statements is not restricted to the presidency. You will all recall San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick deciding to first sit then later kneel rather than stand for the national anthem during the 2016 NFL season to protest the alleged police brutality on black men in America. Has Kaepernick’s stunt helped blacks get more respect? Or better yet, how has it helped his team? On both counts, absolutely nothing. What Kaepernick has done was make himself look selfish and a once proud franchise the laughing stock of the league. You don’t have to listen to Stephen A Smith to understand that. But just in case you still don’t get it…
Do the political opinion of sports figures matter to us? Some think they do. There are reporters who cover the New England Patriots that continue to ask Tom Brady questions about his friendship with Trump. But all he wants to talk about is football, deflated or not. There will be those who are glad that athletes, coaches, managers, and even commissioners are getting involved in politics. But I would be hard-pressed to call them sports fans. I would take bandwagon jumpers over these fakes any day.
A lot of people would point to boxing great Muhammad Ali as an example of someone who brought social injustice to the forefront of the sporting world. Here’s the thing, Ali played a sport where he controlled his own destiny. It is easy to form opinions when you play in an individual sport like boxing, or tennis, or golf, and still be at the top of your game. Compare that to a team sport like basketball where you have dozens of players with varying opinions. Disagreements among players can hinder a team’s success. I also think Ali thought long and hard before expressing his opinion rather than go with a knee-jerk reaction that you often see from today’s athletes. Jim Brown is another highly regarded sports figure who is also looked at as a community activist. But the Cleveland Brown legend is not playing football, having stepped away from the game in 1966 at the age of 30. He has more time on his hands to devote to these causes. And unlike Kerr and Popovich, Brown holds no grudges against Trump and is looking forward to seeing how he does over the next four years.
While athletes are good at playing sports, whether it is baseball, football, hockey, or basketball, when it comes to politics, their opinion carries no more weight than yours or mine. In fact, athletes, musicians, and actors who make political statements are not worthy of even being called rank amateurs. Sports figures are paid to win championships, that’s it. If their political views are interfering with the success of the team they should either shut up or step away from the game. That may be a tough pill to swallow but the last time I checked, no one won a championship by speaking at a protest rally.